I have now seen Avatar twice. Each time it felt long. And I know I always say that. And then I always say that I always say that. But this movie was 161 minutes long. And I don’t care who you are; that is too long. But it demands my mockery nonetheless, so off we go.
The year: 2154. The planet: Pandora. The main theme color: Blue. We begin with a man named Jake Sully, who is deeply and woefully intoning the sorrows of losing his twin brother. Sully is also a paraplegic and can no longer serve in the Marines as a result. Bad year for this guy. It’s been so bad, in fact, that poor Jake from the US of A has suddenly developed an Australian accent as he narrates the (lengthy) trip to Pandora. No, wait; it’s an American accent. No, no, it’s Australian. Errr… it’s Austrerican. Is this like a PTSD thing? Because I keep thinking that it sounds THERE IT IS AGAIN, HE CHANGED IT. Clearly the budget for this movie was not spent on talent. Moving on, in whatever accent you wish: As Jake can no longer be a Marine, he has been recruited to help with a mission that his brother (Tom, maybe?) was supposed to be running before he was murdered in a robbery? They’re 45 kajillion miles into space and the guy somehow witnessed a robbery?
Anyway, Jake is supposed to replace his brother. Because they’re twins, you know, so that probably means they have identical strengths and identical thoughts and identical knowledge of this super-complicated science project going on in a spaceship and alien planet. Makes… sense.
I’m gonna stop here for a sec and explain the basics of the movie, because we’re about to get into weirdo territory here: The premise of the movie is that the US has discovered an invaluable mineral on the planet Pandora (they named it Unobtanium. You can literally not get less creative than that.). Their current tact in obtaining said Unobtanium is to “grow” creatures that look like the natives of the planet, except they will be occupied by the minds of one of the human scientists. Physical characteristics from each scientist are incorporated into their avatar (hey, that’s the name of the movie!), and then they study the land as “natives,” except the real natives can totally tell who the fake ones are and are appropriately creeped out by it. Does that make sense? Think X-Men 2, where Prof. X is controlled by Jean when she wants to send a message to the team. Get it? Got it? Good.
Unfortunately, the head of the project, Grace Something or Other, doesn’t agree with the whole “one twin is as good as the other” theory. She does have some ridiculous standards, like wanting Jake to *gasp* speak the language of the natives and *faint* have some knowledge of what he is getting into. Since Jake’s response to all this is to stare dully and drool a little, she decides he would serve better as a bodyguard and they’ll just work one scientist short for now. Why don’t they just get another scientist, you wonder? First of all, you’re already expecting way too much out of this movie if you’re wondering that. Secondly, have you ever seen the episode of The Brady Bunch where all the kids try out for a record label but only Greg is signed on, only to find out later that they only chose him because he fit into the outfit they wanted their lead singer to wear? (“Why did you choose me, then?” “Because you fit the suit!”) We’ve pretty much got the same situation here: This team was too lazy to grow another avatar, or even find someone who was qualified to help with the project and who was willing to look like someone else’s avatar, so they just found the guy who looked the closest and decided that was probably just as good.
In spite of her continued insistence that Jake is an idiot, Grace figures they may as well just see what happens when they put this guy in control of an alien life form. I guess idiots love company, too. They let him “sync up” to his Pandoran equivalent (the natives are called the Na’vi), along with junior science explorer Norm Spellman, who is in charge of sucking up to Grace and assisting her with her studies of the planet. The first thing Jake does as a Na’vi is gallop across the marine base like a blue antelope before he is tackled by another blue antelope and brought back to the lab. I thought this would be a device to show how Jake just can’t conform to society and if only there was another way, etc., but everyone is like, “Meh, it’s okay,” and he’s good to go.
Now the real party begins – they get to take a field trip! Jake is sent down to Pandora with Grace and Norm to collect samples of plants and dirt and fingernails and whatever else they find down there. This is the beginning of a repetitive series of loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong shots panning the Pandoran landscape. This movie is three hours long, and I’d wager that at least thirty minutes of it is spent showing us the magical landscape, ooh, the mountains, and, wow! an ocean, and look at all the trees, and wait a minute, isn’t this a fake planet? Yes. Yes, it is. I recommend fast-forwarding through these parts.
Aaaaaanyway, they’re on the planet, gathering up some fascinating bugs, when Jake realizes that if he touches this mushroom thingy, it will move and close up like an umbrella! Wow! Umbrellas are fun, aren’t they, Jake? Blowing right past the devastating ecological effect created by disturbing all of these plants, we’ve also forgotten one key thing: Pandora is full of crazy mutant animals. Large, crazy mutant animals. Large, crazy mutant animals that like to hide behind mushroom thingies. Whoops. As Jake cheerfully taps the last mushroom to make it turn into an umbrella, he looks up to see a Tricernocerous growling at him. Ha. Jake shoots it, but (sing it if you know it) the animal is bulletproof. So he shoots it again. … Then he decides to intimidate it by screaming, and surprisingly, it backs off in fear. Way to scream, Jake; that’s some skill you got there – who knew crazy mutant animals could be terrified so easily? No, wait, it was actually terrified of the even bigger monster standing behind Jake. Ha twice. This one is more of a Spideractyl with a huge mouth and a scream that every middle school girl in the country would envy. He escapes THAT (can’t remember how; don’t care) only to find himself surrounded by a pack of wild dogs; are you KIDDING me. At this point I say he should just lie down and die because it’s clear that he’s just not meant to make it out of there, but HARK – the cry of the female protagonist draws near. A blue-skinned…girl, I guess… kills a couple of the dogs and sends the rest running. Jake goes to thank her, but she doesn’t want it – apparently the dogs were her pets. Leash laws, people. Anyway, she’s ready to hightail it out of there when she notices a little floating plant that looks like the white fuzz on dandelions float down to Jake and start to glow. It seems that The Glow is a big deal here on Pandora, because the girl – Neytiri – is in awe. She then decides that Jake has to follow her back to her house and totally meet her parents because they are now linked.
This just in: Wikipedia called the dandelion fuzz “portents from Eywa” (Eywa is their goddess). I literally cannot think of anything better than that. Wikipedia proves itself once again.
Anyway, Neytiri takes Jake home to meet Dad, who is also the clan chief. Conveeeenient. Also, this clan’s home is in a tree, so they named it Hometree. I have a feeling the soundtrack to this scene is named “Soundtrack.” After much debating and sniffing Jake, the clan leaders decide Jake must be taught the ways of the warrior, and Neytiri will be the one to teach him. Hooray.
Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Justi – err, back on the Earth ship, Jake has a private meeting with Colonel Quaritch, who is the Main Guy in charge and will henceforth be referred to as Scar Man because of this awesome claw mark on the side of his face that denotes his BA status. Scar Man offers Jake a deal: If Jake gives him info about the Na’vi, he’ll see to it that Jake is able to walk again. Kind of like a backwards mafia threat. Jake agrees, but unfortunately is still learning the art of subtlety because Grace finds out almost immediately what’s going on and has her team, including Jake, flown to the most remote outpost on the planet. They brought their Avatar Transformer gear with them and continue to pretend to be Na’vi. I really don’t get that part – the natives know they aren’t natives, and the humans definitely know they’re not natives, so… why the avatars, again?
That is one of life’s great questions that just can’t be answered, so we’ll move on to bigger and better things: a montage. You guys know how I feel about montages. So I don’t need to tell you that they’re dumb. And lazy. They’re duzy. But here it is, and I have sworn to recap it all, so I will tell you what happened but know that I am pouting the whole time. We watch three months go by as Jake slowly but surely begins to learn the ways of the Faker Na’vi – he bounces off giant plants, eats giant plants, and generally hangs out near or with giant plants. He also must pass the ultimate challenge: Tame a wild horsey and be its friend. Basically, all the Na’vi wear their hair in long braids. At the end of the braid is some sort of… planty, algae-y thing, that can connect with some of the animals (like the wild horsey) and allow you to link with it. In order to do this, you first have to battle it and hope you don’t die. Jake tames one – we’ll call it Jeff – and suddenly he’s looking a lot more Na’vi-ish to Neytiri, if you get my drift. Sullen Na’vi Guy Who Never Accepts Outsiders, however, is still sullen. End Montage.
Jake, Neytiri, and Jeff decide to take a field trip to see Eywa, who is apparently takes form as a glow in the dark weeping willow. Of course she does. Leaving Jeff to munch on some giant leaves, Jake and Neytiri decide they are totally meant for each other, and, um, read a book together for the first time… It’s a long and awkward reading session, but there you have it. Now they’re together 4EVR, or at least until she discovers the ultimate deception that is headed her way.
Oh, look – here it is. After Commander Scarface gets tired of waiting on Jake to stop making out with his girlfriend and hurry up and betray some people, already, he decides to do some sightseeing of the planet via bulldozer. He doesn’t get far, though, before Jake and Neytiri sabotage the bulldozer by destroying its cameras… which is… good… but now Scarface has proof that Jake has switched teams… so… I’m thinking this is gonna backfire.
Grace joins Jake and Neytiri as they try to convince the Na’vi that spears vs. bulldozers usually ends badly for the spear-holders. But the Na’vi are having none of it, so instead Jake just confesses that he’s been spying and passing along info about them to the bad guys. Oddly, this does not make him more trustworthy, so now the Na’vi are definitely going to war. Before he can finish explaining what a complete jerk he is, the military wakes Human Jake and Human Grace and their Na’vi bodies fall unconscious… in front of a bunch of people that hate them. Raise your hand if you think this will end well. That’s what I thought.
The military is grilling Grace and Jake for information (where is Norm, you ask? No idea.). The exchange goes something like this:
Grace: They’ll never leave Hometree!
Scar Man: TELL US HOW TO MAKE THEM LEAVE.
Grace: They never will!
Scar Man: …what if we threaten to shoot them?
Grace: No, see, they WON’T leave it – the trees are all connected like the neurons in the brain. It’s actually pretty awesome. It’s their life supply and as long as they’re there you have NO no chance of obtaining your unobtanium –
Jake: Uh, Grace –
Grace: – because the only way to get them to leave would be to kill them. You’d have to wipe every single one of them out –
Grace: – like with tear gas or something, or maybe you could use more of the bulldozers, because they only have spears and flying dragons –
Grace: and maybe some vines. It’d actually be pretty easy to kill them all… have I said too much?
So Scar Man and Other Guy In Charge set about making their plan to wipe out the Na’vi. Jake duct tapes Grace’s mouth long enough to suggest that they go back down in their avatars and try to convince the Na’vi to just leave Hometree with out the aid of tear gas. Great plan, except the Na’vi all hate you right now and didn’t you just have this unsuccessful discussion like one scene ago? Scar Man agrees with a shiftiness that makes me think he’s setting an evil scheme in motion (dun dun dunnnnnnnnn).
Shockingly, Grace and Jake are not welcomed back on Pandora. Neytiri gives Jake the “it’s not me, it’s you” speech and then the whole tribe ties them to a pole and leaves them as a buffer for the war that’s about to begin. Even more shockingly, Scar Man never intended to let Jake convince anyone of anything – he has already started firing on Hometree. Blue limbs start flying around everywhere and suddenly Mrs. Neytiri’s Mom decides that maybe having two more people fight can’t hurt, so she frees Jake and Grace. Mr. Neytiri’s Dad isn’t so lucky – he has already been stabbed (by a branch from Hometree… irony’s a jerk sometimes), and as he dies he gives Neytiri his bow and says she is to lead the people now. Good luck with that, Neytiri. Jake finds her and is like “Sorry about your dad… so have you like forgiven me now or what?” I would have stabbed him, but Neytiri just screams something weird and walks away.
Then Grace and Jake both fall unconscious as they are brought back to their human form. This exchange happens about 8 times in this movie, and every time it’s in like super-slo-mo and ohhhhh, the horrrrooorrrrrr, draaaaamaaaaaaa. Back on the ship, the military imprisons Jake and Grace, along with Norm, who is apparently back from his week-long coffee break just in time to commit some treason. A pilot for the military (Hey, it’s Ana Lucia from lost! I… can’t say I’ve missed you, Ana, because I hated you on Lost. But welcome back anyway) is apparently on their side and has been… all this time? I guess? and helps the group escape. Grace gets a little shot, but she’ll probably be fine.
Oops, nope, she’s totally dying. Jake decides the best thing for her is to get in with the cool kids again, so he goes off in search for what is the most legendary creature of all: the Toruk. Oooh, ahhh. The Toruk looks kind of like Jeff the flying horse, except it’s about eleventy bajillion times bigger and kills almost everyone who tries to capture it. But wait a second – Jake is the PROTAGONIST, so he can’t die! Go, Jake, go! Jake uses Jeff to fly next to the toruk, which we will call Ted, and manages to connect with via weird ponytail. Jeff is like “FINE, I see how it is” as Jake rides Ted back to the Na’vi, who have gathered at the Tree of Souls, which is apparently where the club when their tree is down for maintenance.
Ted impresses the Na’vi greatly, and they decide that Jake being a BA warrior makes up for the whole betraying the people and getting them all killed thing. Mrs. Neytiri’s Mom says she can possibly help Grace if they bring both Human Grace and Avatar Grace to her. They’re hoping that Grace can be totally “transferred” over to her avatar’s body and just stay like that forever. To do this, they have to call upon Eywa (cue portents), who may or may not be on board with the whole thing. Jake brings a naked Grace AHHHH SIGOURNEY WEAVER AHHH MY EYES AHHHHHH and the Na’vi begin to do a really creepy chant, complete with dance moves. Unfortunately, their Saturday Night Fever just isn’t hot enough, and Grace dies before she can become her avatar. Thanks for that, Eywa.
Sullen Na’vi Guy Who Never Accepted Outsiders Before But Now Does is like “Sorry about your friend… hey, would leading our people into battle make you feel better?” Jake is like “CHYEAH it would, let’s do this.” He asks everyone to stop breaking it down long enough to go to each of the other Na’vi tribes on Pandora and convince to fight as one. Scar Man is tracking the Na’vi on his Naviator (haaa, see what I did there) and watches as the blue dots jump from like 8 to about a kajillion – they’re heeeeeeeeeeere. His solution is to just bomb the crap out of the place, specifically the Tree of Souls, so that the Na’vi will run, Simba; run away, and NEVER return.
The next scene cannot be summed anymore nicely (and kind of hilariously) than on IMDB: “A flurry of main-character action”: Jake and Ted are pursued and shot at by Scar Man. The artist formerly known as Ana Lucia arrives and opens fire on Scar Man’s command ship, but she is a little blown up in the process. Norm’s avatar is shot (Where does this kid go?? We haven’t seen him in like thirty minutes) and he jumps back to his human form, while Sullen Na’vi Guy Who Never Accepted Outsiders Before But Now Does is killed in his attempt to break down the command ship. I get the whole concept of unity and togetherness vs. the bad bad world, buuuut… it’s a bunch of scantily clad people with spears vs. a laser-firing, flame-throwing ship; what did you think was gonna happen?
Realizing that getting his girlfriend killed will definitely not get him back into her good graces, Jake tells Neytiri to hide, preferably away from the giant bombs. She does so, but on her way is passed by a Tricernocerous, then another, then a whole herd of them, followed by a bunch of the Spideractyls. Apparently they don’t care for being blown up anymore than the Na’vi, and they trample all of the military guys (“NEVER. TOUCH. THE GIANT. PLANTS.”) and then kind of amble away. What’s even funnier is that they have done more damage in those ten seconds than all the Na’vi combined have done for the whole battle.
Not to be outdone, Jake summons Ted and together they take on Scar Man’s ship. They are able to blow it up KABOOM but not before Scar Man puts on a giant robot suit (think chicken walkers from Star Wars. Actually, don’t, because I’m kind of ashamed of myself for knowing what those are.) and brings the battle down to the planet for shizzle. He somehow manages to land right next to the base that Grace, Jake and Norm had set up, where Jake’s human body is currently snoozing. They began to battle, but as we have seen many times before, tree branch vs. robot is kind of a one-sided venture. But hark – what is that rustle in the wood? It is a Tricernocerous, and riding it is Neytiri! I so did not see this coming. The Tricernocerous attacks Scar Man, but apparently Scar Man has a “Destroy Large, Cracked-out Animals” setting in his armor, because it doesn’t take him long to kill the Tricernocerous (WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY), trapping Neytiri underneath it (GROSSSSSSSSSSSSSS).
It looks kind of grim, but then Jake looks around and thinks for a second and is like “Okay, wait a second… destroyed your ship, check. Killed all your guys, check. Embarrassed you by beating you up with sticks, check. So it seems like we’ve won… howsabout you don’t kill me and we just call it even?” Scarm Man also thinks for a second before saying “Nope, still gonna kill you. Tell your ponytail goodbye.” Speaking of Jake’s ponytail, where is Ted?? Was he killed? Was he sent away? Did he form a bond with Jeff and now they’re vacationing on an island somewhere?
Scar Man and Jake spent so much time yakking that they don’t notice Neytiri freeing herself and breaking out her bow. Apparently the robot suit can fight off animals but not wood – she fires an arrow and it goes right through the armor. Scar Man falls to the ground and she shoots him again (“THAT’S FOR BRINGING ANA LUCIA INTO THIS MOVIE, YOU JERK.”) and he starts to die. However, all the yakking all distracted Jake and Neytiri from noticing that the base where Jake’s human body is sleeping has been destroyed, and it’s leaking oxygen. The air on Pandora is only breathable by Na’vi; did I not mention that? It hasn’t been that important till now, but now it’s REAL important because Jake’s a-gonna die. Avatar Jake falls to the ground as Neytiri runs inside the base, just in time to see Jake gasping for air:
Jake: Get…the oxygen… mask…
Neytiri: Get the what?
Jake: *weakly points* The oxygen mask.
Neytiri: Okay, you’re kind of mumbling. You want me to get you an Oxycontin Flask?
Jake: THE OXYGEN MASK.
Neytiri: You didn’t have to YELL at me. I forgave you after the betrayal but you are walking on pretty shaky ground here, mister.
Neytiri: Oh, crap.
She finally manages to find and administer said oxygen mask, and we cut to Jake doing one last video recording (did I not mention those, either? Where he logs all his activities and sends them to Scar Man? I guess I should scroll up and see… nah, you guys are smart; you’ll get it), saying that today is a special day: he gets to become a Na’vi forever! All he has to do is go to the Tree of Souls and the people will chant and jive and Eywa will let him be a Na’vi forever! Wait, haven’t we tried this before? But this time it involves romance AND the protagonist so we’re probably safe. Jake is being transformed, being transformed, chant, chant, boogie, transformed – and, lo, the camera zooms in on his eye… and it OPENS.
Don’t see it.